When school started this year, I was both a little apprehensive and excited about the prospect of abandoning our old phonics program for a while and trying a little different approach with Lulu for her phonics instruction. As a part of TOS Homeschool Crew, I had received Rocket Phonics just in time to start the year out with it. Although Lulu already knew all of the sounds of the alphabet and could read short vowel, c-v-c words, we had not begun on digraphs and the like. To be honest, I was a little nervous about this because I remember very little about the learning-to-read process from my own childhood, and I have never taught anyone to read before now. We started out with Rocket Phonics, and Lulu has never once resisted a reading lesson. 🙂 While I certainly don’t expect everything we do for our learning time to be fun, it is a bonus when it is and it works, for sure! Lulu buzzed through the first sections Rocket Phonics, which involved learning the phonemes and an associated picture used as a memory aide. When we reached the digraphs, we slowed down a bit because this was new territory. I am pleased to announce that right now, Lulu is well versed in the various combinations of vowels and the sounds they produce. She is even reading words that use the various digraphs, and we are poised to begin the next section of the curriculum, which introduces thinking games and more complex phrases.
The key to Rocket Phonics is the initial teaching alphabet, or the ITA. This curriculum assigns a symbol to every phoneme in the English language, for a total of thirty-six discrete sounds/symbols to be learned. Each of the sounds is associated with a picture, which helps the child remember the sound. For example, the digraph oy is associated with a picture of toys. Charts of the symbols are printed in the book (which is the teacher manual and student book, all in one) and on playing cards. This simple memory aide has helped Lulu a lot–I can almost see the wheels turning in her brain as we’ve gone over the symbols as she works to recall the sounds they make.
Rocket Phonics uses games and repetition for the teaching of the ITA. This is just perfect for Lulu–she adores playing games, and it doesn’t seem like work at all to her. So far, we have enjoyed (and enjoyed, and enjoyed, and enjoyed) Bingo and a few rousing games of Go Fish! Rocket Phonics introduces blending with very little difficulty or fanfare. This curriculum includes a “peeker,” which is simply a piece of laminated cardstock in the shape of a rocket with a window in it. It has been my experience that isolating the word on the page really helps the younger readers.
So far we really haven’t found any part of Rocket Phonics that hasn’t worked for us. Occassionally, I have a little difficulty as the teacher because of our particular dialect (we’re from the South, y’all) and how it doesn’t translate to that generic, broadcast journalist pronunciation of words, but I work through that. 😉 This is actually a problem no matter the curriculum. Louise, who is 3 3/4, has been tagging along a little behind Lulu, and she has recently begun blending those short vowel, c-v-c words herself. I don’t know that Rocket Phonics is entirely responsible for this, but the enthusiasm that they bring to the learning table when this book comes out can’t have hurt. We will be continuing with this curriculum over the next weeks, and I will post again in the future on what progress we have made.
The only part of Rocket Phonics that at first gave me pause is the cost. $160 seemed a little steep to me for a phonics program. However, when I consider the fact that we would not hesitate to pay that much (or more, possibly) for almost any other curriculum kit, I get over my hesitation. I think the Rocket Phonics approach would actually appeal to a variety of learning styles due to the multi-faceted approach to learning (and a plethora of additional helps that are free upon purchase). This is a curriculum that would be well worth the money if a child is resistant to phonics instruction or if it could be used with multiple children.
Be sure to check back in the future for Rocket Phonics updates here at Hope Is the Word!